Although I write articles, counsel couples and write books about how to prevent adultery, I almost never use the words “affair- proof” when I talk about marriage. Secretly, I resist the idea that a marriage should have to include prevention techniques in order to avoid “falling” into infidelity, as if one stumbles upon it by accident, like falling into a manhole blindly, on an unmarked street.
And yet I see hundreds of cheating couples who sit on my couch and look dumbstruck, as if they have no idea what just happened to them. It is almost as if they didn’t realize that the signs were there, and that the affair was bound to happen. They move into their affair unconsciously, as if they were taken over by a zombie who operated blindly on desire alone and ignored the voice inside the brain that was screaming, “Watch where you’re going!”
Whether we call it affair proofing or zombie killing, it is important to talk about the signs that point directly to an affair if you are not vigilant and you don’t look at the road in front of you. Monogamy is hard. Don’t pretend that just because you have a wonderful marriage now that it isn’t. It can still happen to you.
Most people who have affairs say they are not the cheating kind, and many even say that their marriages were fine when they started cheating. Studies show that up to 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage.
Anyone can find themselves at any time lost in their zombie brain and suddenly over their head and under someone else’s covers. Here are some of the road signs to watch for:
You stop communicating. You and your partner haven’t talked in weeks. You don’t know how they feel or what is going on in their life outside of the shared time that you spend on the couch in front of the TV or asleep. You don’t catch up and you don’t share your daily delights and concerns.
Be assured that if this continues too long without one of you doing a “check-in” one of you or both will turn to someone else. Eventually that other person becomes a confidant and an emotional best friend. If that person is someone that is attractive and interested, watch out. (A “check-in” is when you ask your partner if each of you can “check-in” once a day for fifteen minutes.What was a highlight of your day? What was a down moment for you? And how are we doing, as a couple today? Those three questions, asked every day, can re-unite you as best friends and communicators.)
You don’t feel appreciated. If you feel like all you ever hear from your partner is what you are doing wrong, you may find yourself withdrawing and feeling resentful. In the beginning of your relationship you probably shared all the ways you appreciated your partner and those little or big things made you both feel loved. Now that you are living together or married you may find that with all the things you need to do to manage a home and family there is more to do on your “to do” lists than ever before. And it may be tempting to try to cajole, nag or beg your partner to help. When they don’t or can’t you may feel abandoned or disrespected and then criticize.
If you don’t take time to point out to each other what you appreciate, it will be very hard to resist other people’s flattery. Take a few minutes right now and write down three things you appreciate about your partner. Text, email or whisper them in your partner’s ear. Make sure they really hear you.You can even ask them to repeat back to you what they heard to make sure they take in the appreciation. Then ask them to return the favor and tell you three things they appreciate about you. This exercise will shift the energy completely in your relationship and can prevent the desire to seek appreciation elsewhere.
Sex is Boring. After the initial romantic stages of a relationship ends and the honeymoon is over, you enter into the “maintenance” phase of sex. This phase may mean that sex is nice, it works, and you like it but it can at times be stale or boring.You may feel trapped in your routine. You may also find yourself fantasizing about something a little more adventurous but haven’t had the time or energy to seek out a new fantasy with your partner. Why rock the boat? You feel lucky you’re having sex at all.
The risk of not spicing up the bedroom is obvious. When you put as much energy into your erotic life as you put into your job, your home, or even your exercise routine, you will find that it pays off big time. Your erotic life is what makes you feel “in love” with your partner – not just loving toward them.Find a new way to make love this week.
Add an element of danger by talking turns tying each other to the bed with a silk scarf. Or add a blindfold for a hint of sensual deprivation and a little playful submission. Whatever you do, bring your “affair” energy into your marriage and you won’t ever have the need to cheat.You can have “new” sex every night – with your partner.
If any of these road signs that can lead to an affair are already in your path, talk to your spouse. Don’t wait until your Zombie brain takes over and you fall into the hole in the road and can’t get out. If you feel you can’t talk to your partner for any reason, find a therapist or trusted friend. Tell on yourself, kill off the Zombies and get real with your feelings. If there are problems in your marriage, work on the relationship first, before you end up losing a partnership that you may not want to end.
For more info about affair proofing your marriage, and visit www.drtammynelson.com for more about writing your monogamy agreements for a lifetime of passion and connection.